Veterinarian and dog. Source: Eric Isselee/Shutterstock.com
Veterinarian and dog. Source: Eric Isselee/Shutterstock.com

Southpaws Specialty Surgery for Animals, an Australian veterinarian clinic, is using 3D printers to help injured animals. Dr. Kuntz explains how the scans and 3D prints are used for educational tools for the pet’s family and also to help veterinarians decide the best treatment.

"Take for example, a dog that has a bone chip in the elbow joint," states Dr. Kuntz. "The initial CT scan or X-ray will likely show the problem, but it is difficult to explain to the family how it has occurred and what treatment is required. With a model of the joint showing where the damage has occurred, not only can the referring vet make a better judgment on whether specialist surgery is required, but can also show the pet owner how it will be done."

How does it Work?

Veterinarians take a CT scan of the pet and create a 3D digital model of the injured area. Then the doctors send the digital model to a 3D printer. The 3D printer creates a physical model of the body part by depositing material layer by layer until the part is complete. Vets can then examine the physical model and gain insights that were previously not possible with just the CT scan alone.

3D Printing for Pets in the United States

In the United States, Cornell University Hospital for Animals is also using 3D printing to aid animals. Bekka, a German shepherd puppy, had a limb deformity that caused her leg to grow crookedly. The hospital used CT scans to create a digital model of the bone, which was then 3D printed. Dr. Krotscheck talks about how the 3D print helped:

"I knew what plate to use, how to contour the plate, where it should sit on the bone, and where the cuts should be made," said Krotscheck. "All the decision-making was done 24 hours in advance. Having access to the models prior to surgery decreased the length of time Bekka was under anesthesia, decreased the time surgery took from start to finish, and ultimately decreased the risk of infection."

3D printing has many applications and helping people and pets is one of the advantages. As this technology advances, we will see many exciting breakthroughs, such as 3D printed food to help world hunger or 3D printed organs to help patients needing transplants.

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